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Steven Berkoff
Born Leslie Steven Berks
3 August 1937 (1937-08-03) (age 72)
Stepney, London, England
Occupation Actor, director, writer
Years active 1959–present
Spouse(s) Shelley Lee
(August 1976; divorced)
Domestic partner(s) Clara Fisher
Official website

Steven Berkoff (born 3 August 1937) is an English actor, writer and director.[1][2][3] Berkoff is typically cast in villanous roles, and his best-known roles are probably General Orlov in the James Bond film Octopussy, and Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop. Berkoff has been seen most recently in an uncredited cameo in the low budget, National Lottery funded horror movie The Cottage.


Personal history

Berkoff was born as Leslie Steven Berk, in Stepney, in the East End of London,[1] on 3 August 1937, the son of Pauline (Hyman) and Alfred Berks (Berkovitch), who was a tailor.[2][3] He attended Raine's Foundation Grammar School from 1948 to 1950,[4] Hackney Downs School[5] and trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, in London, in 1958 and at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq, in Paris, in 1965.[6] He lives with his companion Clara Fisher in East London.[1][6]



As well as being an actor, Berkoff is a playwright and director.

He joined the Repertory Company at Her Majesty's Theatre in Barrow-in-Furness for approx two months in 1962 [7].

His earliest plays are adaptations of works by Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis (1969); In the Penal Colony (1969); and The Trial (1971); these complex psychological plays are nightmarish and create a disturbing sense of alienation in their audiences.[citation needed]

In the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote a series of verse plays including: East (1975); Greek (1980); Decadence (1981); West (1983); Sink the Belgrano! (1986); Massage (1997); Sturm und Drang; and The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (2001).

Critic Ned Chaillett has described Sink the Belgrano!, a critical take on the Falklands War, which premiered at the Half Moon Theatre, in Stepney, on 2 September 1986,[citation needed] as "a diatribe in punk-Shakespearean verse"; and Berkoff himself described it as "even by my modest standards ... one of the best things I have done" (Free Association 373).[citation needed]

Berkoff employs a style of heightened physical theatre known as "total theatre".[citation needed] Drama critic Aleks Sierz describes his Berkoff's dramatic style as "in yer face":

the language is usually filthy, characters talk about unmentionable subjects, take their clothes off, have sex, humiliate each another, experience unpleasant emotions, become suddenly violent. At its best, this kind of theatre is so powerful, so visceral, that it forces audiences to react: either they feel like fleeing the building or they are suddenly convinced that it is the best thing they have ever seen, and want all their friends to see it too. It is the kind of theatre that inspires us to use superlatives, whether in praise or condemnation."[8]

In the late 1980s, he directed an interpretation of Salome by Oscar Wilde in the Gate Theatre, Dublin and later in the United Kingdom.

In 1998 his solo play Shakespeare's Villains, premiered at London's Haymarket Theatre, was nominated for a Society of London Theatre Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment.

Film and television

In Hollywood films, Steven Berkoff has played villains such as the corrupt art dealer Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop; gangster George Cornell in The Krays; the sadistic Soviet officer Col. Podovsky in Rambo: First Blood Part II; and General Orlov in the James Bond film Octopussy.

He also appears in the 1967 Hammer film Prehistoric Women, in the 1980 film McVicar, alongside Roger Daltrey and in the Australian biographical film on the early life of Errol Flynn entitled Flynn (1996) (entitled My Forgotten Man in some markets).

In Stanley Kubrick's films A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon, Berkoff plays a police officer and a gambler nobleman (Lord Ludd), respectively. He also appears in the independent feature Naked in London (2006).

As a television actor, he had an early TV role in an episode of The Avengers. He also had an early role as a regular playing a Moonbase Interceptor pilot in the Gerry Anderson TV series UFO. His other television roles include: Hagath in the episode "Business as Usual" in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Stilgar in the 2003 miniseries Children of Dune; a gangster (Mr Wiltshire) in episode 8 of the BBC's Hotel Babylon series; a lawyer (Freddie Eccles) in an episode of ITV's Marple entitled By the Pricking of My Thumbs; and Adolf Hitler in the mini-series War and Remembrance, role he originally baulked at taking, primarily on moral grounds; he later relented.[citation needed]

Berkoff also appears as himself in the "Science" episode of the British current affairs satire Brass Eye (1997), warning against the dangers of the fictional environmental disaster "Heavy Electricity".

Other work

Berkoff presents the BBC Horizon episode of Infinity and Beyond (2010)

Berkoff speaks the voiceover in "The Mind Of The Machine" single for UK by dance-music band N-Trance which reached #15 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1997.

Berkoff appears in the opening sequence to Sky Sports' coverage of the 2007 Heineken Cup Final, modeled on a speech by Al Pacino in the 1999 film Any Given Sunday.

With Andy Serkis and others, he provides motion capture and voice for the PlayStation 3 game Heavenly Sword, playing one of its main villains, General Flying Fox.

Also with Serkis, he appears briefly in a cameo in the 2008 film The Cottage.

In 1996, he appeared as the Master of Ceremonies in a BBC Radio 2 concert version of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret.

He appears in the British Heart Foundation's two-minute public service advertisement, Watch Your Own Heart Attack, broadcast on ITV, on 10 August 2008.[9]

He is also patron of the Nightingale Theatre, in Brighton, England, a fringe theatre venue.[10]

Awards, award nominations, and other honours

Attending the Alton College ceremony honouring him, he stated:
I remember in my younger days questioning what life means. Finding a place like the Berkoff Performing Arts Centre, I found myself as a person. Having a place like this sowed the seeds of the man I think I am today. A place like this is the first step in changing the life of a person.

There's something about theatre that draws people together because it's something connected with the human soul. All over the UK, the performing arts links people with a shared humanity as a way to open the doors to the mysteries of life. We should never underestimate the power of the theatre. It educates, informs, enlightens and humanises us all.

He taught a drama masterclass later that day and performed his Shakespeare's Villains for an invited audience of 100 that evening.

Critical assessment

According to Annette Pankratz, in her 2005 Modern Drama review of Steven Berkoff and the Theatre of Self-Performance, by Robert Cross, "Steven Berkoff is one of the major minor contemporary dramatists in Britain and – due to his self-fashioning as a bad boy of British theatre and the ensuing attention of the media – a phenomenon in his own right."[11] According to Pankratz, Cross "focuses on Berkoff's 'theatre of self-performance,' that is, the intersections between Berkoff, the public phenomenon and Berkoff, the artist."[11]

Allusions in popular culture

In the 1989 romantic comedy The Tall Guy, struggling actor Dexter King (Jeff Goldblum) auditions unsuccessfully for an imaginary 'Berkoff play' called England, My England. In the audition, characters dressed as skinheads swear repetitively at each other, and a folding table is kicked over. Afterwards, Dexter's agent Mary (Anna Massey) muses: "I think he's probably mad..."

"I'm scared of Steven Berkoff" is a line in the lyrics of "I'm Scared" (1992), by Queen's guitarist Brian May, released on his first solo album Back to the Light (1993).[12] Brian May has declared himself as a great admirer of Berkoff.[13]

Legal controversy

In 1996 Berkoff prevailed as the plaintiff in Berkoff v. Burchill, a libel civil action which he brought against Sunday Times journalist Julie Burchill, after she published comments suggesting that he was "hideously ugly"; the judge ruled for Berkoff, finding that Burchill's actions "held him to ridicule and contempt."[14]


  1. ^ a b c "Steven Berkoff". Contemporary Writers. British Council. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  2. ^ a b "Steven Berkoff". Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  3. ^ a b "Steven Berkoff". (Yahoo! Inc.). Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  4. ^ David A. Spencer (publicity officer), The Old Raineians' Association. "Famous Personalities from Raine's Foundation School: Steven Berkoff (1948-1950)". Press release. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  5. ^ Michael Coveney (2007-01-04). "Steven Berkoff: The Real East Enders". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-09-27. "In his latest play and in an exhibition of photographs, Steven Berkoff revisits his past in the vibrant melting-pot that was riverside London." 
  6. ^ a b c "Steven Berkoff". Celebrities. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  7. ^ Peter Purves' autobiography "Here's one I wrote earlier...", hardback edition, Green Umbrella Publishing, page 70. ISBN 9781906635343.
  8. ^ Aleks Sierz (2001). In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 25–26. ISBN 9780571200498. 
  9. ^ Fiona Ramsay (2008-08-04). "ITV to Air British Heart Foundation's Two-minute 'heart attack' Ad". Media Week. (Haymarket Group). Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  10. ^ "Nightingale Theatre: Patron Steven Berkoff". Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  11. ^ a b Annette Pankratz. "Steven Berkoff and the Theatre of Self-Performance, by Robert Cross". Modern Drama 48 (2005): 459. 
  12. ^ "Back to the Light". Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Mark Lunney and Ken Oliphant (2007). Tort Law: Text and Materials (3rd ed. ed.). London and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 704. ISBN 9780199211364. 


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Steven Berkoff (born August 3, 1937) is an English actor, writer and director.


  • I disagree with Les. We always found good cunt at the Lyceum. Friendly cunt, clean cunt, spare cunt, jeans and knicker stuffed full of nice juicy hairy cunt, handfuls of cunt, palmful grabbing the cunt by the stem, or the root – infantile memories of cunt – backrow slides – slithery oily cunt, the cunt that breathes – the cunt that’s neatly wrapped in cotton, in silk, in nylon, that announces, that speaks or thrusts, that winks that’s squeezed in a triangle of furtive cloth backed by an arse that’s creamy, springy billowy cushiony tight, knicker lined, knicker skinned, circumscribed by flowers and cotton, by views, clinging knicker, juice ridden knicker, hot knicker, wet knicker, swelling vulva knicker, witty cunt, teeth smiling the eyes biting cunt, cultured cunt, culture vulture cunt, finger biting cunt, cunt that pours, cunt that spreads itself over your soft lips, that attacks, cunt that imagines – cunt you dream about, cunt you create as a Melba, a meringue with smooth sides – remembered from school boys’ smelly first cunt, first foreign cunt, amazing cunt – cunt that’s cruel. Cunt that protects itself and makes you want it even more cunt – cunt that smells of the air, of the earth, of bakeries, of old apples, of figs, of sweat of hands of sour yeast of fresh fish cunt. So – are we going Les? We might pick up a bit of crumpet.
    • East (1975), Scene 17

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